Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Value and Spontaneity Exercise to do with Friends

This week, I'll be teaching in Springfield, Ohio for the Remembrance Quilt Guild.  It's a Set-In Piecing Simplified workshop using a scrappy tumbling blocks quilt as the project.  As I was packing my workshop samples, I got to thinking about how much easier making a spontaneous, scrappy quilt is for me since teaching the spontaneity and value workshops based on Gai Perry's classic book, Color From the Heart.
Earlier this year, Joanne over at Everyone Deserves a Quilt asked how I organize that exercise and this is what I shared with her.  I'm sharing it with you today because I think it would be a  good warm up for your fall quilt making activities.  Invite a few quilting friends, a minimum of 5 to 6 people is best -- more is fine, to join you.  Here's how I set it up.
Everyone cuts 4" squares into triangles -- usually two squares each from 50 fabrics so there are 200 triangles.  When the group gets together, everyone trades 50 triangles -- easiest, fastest way to do that is to count out 5 stacks of 10 triangles then trade each stack with a different person. 

The amount of time for the session determines whether or not the group does any sewing. 

For a half-day session, there is no sewing.  After the trading, put all the triangles into a brown paper bag.  Have a piece of flannel or cotton batting set up for a "work wall".   Pull two triangles out of the bag, decide which is the darker of the two and then position them on the flannel depending on the overall layout being used. 

For an all-day session, after the trading is done everyone sits down with their bags, pulls out two triangles out of the bag lottery style and stitches them together -- no cheating -- chain piecing should get most quilters through this step in a hour to an hour and a half. 
Press the seams towards the darker triangle.  Then back into the bags they go again.  Now begin to draw out the HST's, one at a time, and place them onto the "work wall" in the correct position for the design.  Expect to whine a lot at this point but just keep pushing through!!

Everyone starts at the upper left corner and works across the top row until there are 10 HST's in place.  Then begin the second row at the left end and just keep going until the piece is 10 across by 10 down.  Once everything is laid up on the work wall, it's best to take a break. 

After about 5 minutes, participants should then come back to their work and they can make minor adjustments.  First though it's important to identify what they like about the spontaneous layout.  An important part of the exercise is to experience the spontaneity and see that when you are working with fabric you enjoy, it works well.  An example of a minor adjustments might be something like there are only 5 aqua triangles in the entire piece and they are all clustered in the same area -- then it's good to scatter them around so they don't draw the eye to that area but rather serve as a "bit of sparkle" here and there. 

It's helpful to the group to make part of the exercise walking around and looking at each participants work wall, talking about each piece, identifying things that work, and paying attention to how they feel about each other's pieces.  Doing this quadruples the effectiveness of the exercise.
It's easy to overwork these pieces by switching so much around that the piece loses it's spontaneity and becomes too controlled to be interesting.  The unexpected is what makes a quilt interesting!!  The two fabrics in each HST don't have to be coordinated or match -- the light vs. dark positioning carries the design.

There are lots of options for the overall layout.  Usually I have everyone do the same simple arrangement but it might be fun to have several arrangements and randomly assign different ones to each participant?  I've never tried that.
This is the last one I did.  They are fun to make and the final border really brings them to life.
And they make cheerful charity quilts as well. 
My charity group just had some books donated to us to sell off to raise money for our batting.  There is a copy of Color From the Heart available if you are interested!!  $10 plus shipping -- just leave me a comment!!
Hope your week is off to a good start!!
Mary Huey


  1. What a fun exercise and a great way to learn about value. This would be a fun activity for a Guild bee day!

  2. Color From the Heart class (Austinburg...a gazillion years ago) was my favorite class ever!